By Sara Sjolin and Anora M. Gaudiano, MarketWatch
Modest opening gains on Wall Street pushed U.S. stock-market indexes into record territory on Wednesday.
Investors are likely to turn their focus onto ISM manufacturing data and the latest Federal Reserve minutes that could provide hints on the number of rate rises in 2018.
What are stock indexes doing?
The S&P 500 rose 5 points, or 0.2%, to 2,701, hitting an intraday record a day after closing at a record . Seven of the 11 main sectors trading higher, with technology shares leading the gains up 0.7%. Telecoms lagged, down 0.9%.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 42 points, or 0.2%, to 24,863, trading above its previous all-time closing high.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 24 points, or 0.4%, to 7,031.
What's driving the markets?
The positive trading mood from 2017 appeared to continue into 2018, with stocks in Asia and U.S. kicking off the new year on an strong note. European stocks rose on Wednesday after falling on Tuesday, taking a cue from Asia .
The global stock advances came even amid geopolitical uncertainty in Iran, where at least 22 people have died in protests against the government. On Wednesday, tens of thousands of people took to the streets for pro-government rallies across the country, voicing their support for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The protests started last week over rising inflation and corruption, but focus has since shifted to a wider discontent with Iran's ruling system and Khamenei. The wave of unrest is now seen as the largest since a disputed 2009 presidential election, and it could filter into markets if it leads to a disruption to the region's oil industry.
What's coming up on the economic calendar?
The highlight for Wednesday is the minutes from the Dec. 12-13 Federal Open Market Committee meeting due at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. Traders are looking for hints on how many times the central bank will raise interest rates in 2018. According to the CME Group's data, the market is currently pricing in the next rate rise in March.
Ahead of the Fed minutes, the ISM manufacturing data for December and construction spending for November are slated for release at 10 a.m. Eastern. Monthly car sales data are expected throughout the session.
What are strategists saying?
"Today's session is another that is looking light of any real headline data. For me the macro picture is all geared towards Friday's U.S. jobs report, so anything prior to that could well just be noise," said James Hughes, chief market analyst at AxiTrader, in a note.
"The only area that won't just be noise comes at [2 p.m. Eastern] when we get the FOMC meeting minutes from the Fed, of which we are looking for indications on rate hikes for 2018. Expectations are that we could see up to 4 rate hikes in 2018, with many believing that the first could happen in March," he said.
Which stocks are in focus?
Scana Corp.(>> SCANA Corporation) soared 23% after the energy company agreed to an all-stock merger with Dominion Energy Inc.(D). Dominion shares fell 4.5%.
Shares of MoneyGram International Inc.(>> Moneygram International Inc) slumped 10% after the money transfer company and Ant Financial Services group, an affiliate of China-based Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (>> Alibaba Group Holding) late Tuesday said they have agreed to end their merger agreement after months of wrangling with the U.S. government.
Shares of Ford Company(F) and General Motors Co.(>> General Motors Corporation) rose, as car makers reported their monthly sales figures. Ford rose 0.4% while GM rose 1.6%.
What are other markets doing?
The dollar selloff paused , with the ICE dollar index up 0.2% at 92.020.
West Texas Intermediate crude oil rose 0.4% to $60.80 a barrel, while gold futures added 0.1% to $1,317.50 an ounce.
Bitcoin futures climbed 0.3% to $14,905, adding to a 2.7% rise from Tuesday that came after report that Founders Fund, led by venture capitalist luminary Peter Thiel, had amassed a stake in the digital currency .
Stocks in Asia closed in positive territory, while European stocks broadly traded higher .